Blue water nursing: the role of Navy nurses on board US Navy combatant ships

Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am. 2003 Jun;15(2):233-43. doi: 10.1016/s0899-5885(02)00085-0.


The independent and autonomous nature of blue water nursing makes its practice exceptionally demanding, exciting, and rewarding for Navy nurses assigned to US Navy combatant ships. Whether serving on board an aircraft carrier or an amphibious assault ship, the lone critical care nurse is responsible for a diverse mix of nursing care ranging from community health to critical care. Delivering this care in an austere shipboard environment at sea, often in isolated locations without regular available support from shore-based medical facilities, defines the blue water aspect of this nursing practice. Due to this type of setting and the limited critical care nursing presence on board, the greatest professional challenge at sea is care of the critically ill and injured. Leadership and teamwork are essential. Navy Corpsmen play an integral role in the delivery of nursing care, and the nurse relies heavily on them. Because the nurse cannot do it all alone, taking the lead on providing training and clinical guidance to the Corpsmen is a key responsibility of the shipboard nurse. In this assignment, the critical care nurse also has a unique opportunity to make an impact the health and welfare of the ship's entire crew through wellness and prevention programs. Considering the personal and professional challenges and rewards of blue water nursing, most Navy nurses describe their tour of duty on board a combatant ship as the best assignment of their Navy career.

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration
  • Military Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Naval Medicine / organization & administration*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Operating Rooms / organization & administration
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Ships*
  • United States
  • Warfare